Century Marks

Century Marks

Theological wit

Wit and humor were an integral part of Martin Luther’s theology. Writing against rationalistic, good-works-oriented religion, he declared: “As soon as reason and the Law are joined, faith immediately loses its virginity.” Luther used bathroom humor, which he directed against the devil, the pope and death. He called the pope “dearest little ass-pope.” About the devil he wrote: “If he devours me, he shall devour a laxative (God willing) which will make his bowels and anus too tight for him.” Shortly before his death Luther said to his wife Katie, “I’m like a ripe stool and the world’s like a gigantic anus, and so we’re about to let go of each other” (Word and World, Spring).

Changing orientation

Robert Spitzer, retired psychiatrist at Columbia University, has retracted his controversial 2001 study that claimed gays and lesbians could be cured of their homosexuality through therapy. The so-called “ex-gay” movement used his argument to push what they called “reparative therapy,” which claims that with strong motivation lesbians and gays can become straight via therapy or prayer. Ironically, Spitzer was one of the mental health professionals who urged the American Psychiatric Asso­ciation to stop classifying homosexuality a mental disorder, which it did in 1973 (Southern Poverty Law Center, April 11).

God and others

Aging is accompanied by a sense of loss and diminishment, especially in energy and health. Lewis Richmond believes that relying on something greater than ourselves, like God, can compensate for the loss. Research indicates that people who go to religious worship services at least once a week live seven years longer than those who don’t. This is especially true for people who combine such attendance with service to others (Aging as a Spiritual Practice, Gotham Books).

Fanning the heat

Wind farms are supposed to be environmentally friendly, but research reported in Nature indicates that large wind farms actually contribute to warmer temperatures, at least at the local level. At nighttime, after the sun goes down, the earth’s temperature usually decreases. Large wind farms mix that cold air with warmer air aloft, increasing the local temperature. This could have an eventual effect on wildlife in the area and could also affect the weather regionally, since warmer air contributes to cloud formation and wind speeds. The research was done in Texas, which has four of the largest wind farms in the world. China is reportedly erecting 36 wind turbines a day (Telegraph, April 29).

Prison ministry

Writing about Prison Fellowship, founded by the late Chuck Colson, Mark Oppenheimer points out that there have been two impulses behind incarceration in the U.S. One, with Christian underpinnings, focused on reforming the imprisoned; the other, which took hold especially in the South during the era of slavery, promoted harsh living conditions and punitive labor (think chain gangs and labor farms). Colson advocated for less crowded, more humane prisons. His critics say that Prison Fellowship doesn’t challenge the prison system so much as work toward the spiritual reformation of individual prisoners. Studies are mixed on whether such a ministry turns prisoners away from a life of crime once they’re back on the street (New York Times, April 27).